Editor’s Note: This is, in fact, part 3 of a 4 part series. We hope you continue to follow through Jessica’s journey. Thank you.
For several years after the divorce, I kept blaming myself for everything. I felt guilty for giving in to the blackmail. I felt guilty for every time she hit me. I felt guilty for feeling suicidal and depressed. I felt guilty for the real me that was still hiding down there. I felt like maybe if I had done something differently, none of it would’ve happened. But in reality, the only real guilt I should’ve ever had was hiding the real me. It took a while for me to realize that none of what was happening was my fault.
I had to live with my dad for several years after the divorce since I was in so much debt. My friend had finally explained to me what transgender meant, and it brought some peace to me. I wanted to transition, but I didn’t know where to begin and I wasn’t comfortable doing it under my dad’s roof. I knew at the time everything would eventually be alright. Yet as I look back, that was one of my biggest mistakes…that I didn’t start transitioning to female sooner. I also had to heal from depression. But knowing the truth of figuring out who I was, gave me hope.
In 2008, a few friends of mine dragged me out to a karaoke night at a local bar. That was the first time I had gone out and really had fun since the divorce. I soon found I had some talent in singing. My friends encouraged me to keep doing it, and I came to really enjoy singing and music! Remember, having that ‘being trapped’ feeling being a part of a Pentecostal church, most secular music was pretty new to me. I found a lot of joy in it and singing really helped me to finally get out of my depression. I was really beginning to figure out who I was.
I loved music because it helped to keep my mind off of the past. It gave me a quick escape from reality. I wanted to try to take my new found joy a little further and get into some stage acting and musicals. I even started dating on and off again over the next several years and found hope that maybe I can truly love someone again and be loved in return.
In 2013, I managed to get out of debt from the divorce, paid off my car, and was able to get a place of my own with the person I was dating at the time. I felt like I was finally able to move on with my life and this had given me the open door I needed to look into to begin transitioning. And my partner was even encouraging me to do so.
I finally felt like I had my purpose in life and hope for a better future. But where does one began with transitioning when you’re still trying to keep it in the closet so to speak? Who can I safely talk about this too so I can find out what to do without the fear of being scrutinized? I turned to a pretty good source of info, the LGBTQIA center here in Milwaukee. I found out I needed to see a therapist first before anyone would prescribe me hormones, but I wondered how I would do this without coming out publicly.
I was given a list of LGBTQIA friendly therapists. Still nervous about talking to someone on the phone about it, I messaged everyone on the list which consisted of about 10 names. The response I got a back was from one that happened to be in Madison, WI, about an hour west of Milwaukee. She agreed to see me.
I had to see a therapist for 4-6 months before I could get a recommendation letter for hormones. I knew this would be tough for me but it was also the healthiest route to take. Hormones can be obtained using the black market, but that is very dangerous. So over the next 6 months, every other Saturday, which I had to make sure I had off work and I had to give a lame excuse without giving away what I was really doing as I was not ready yet to fully come out. I traveled an hour west to Madison for a 90-minute therapy session that cost $90 each session. Insurance didn’t cover that. As one could imagine it got pretty costly.
During the sessions, I made the difficult decision to never have a biological child of my own. You see, once you start hormones, they eventually will make you impotent. I was ok with that being 35 years old at the time. I figured I could always adopt if I changed my mind.
Slowly over time, I confided with some of my close friends about the real me. My therapist had finally given me the ok to start hormone therapy and I could finally see the light at the end of a very long tunnel, but there was one last big hurdle to jump. I had to come out to my regular physician.
I called my Dr’s office to schedule an appointment and came up with a bull shit reason for them to see me. I would give myself no outs on this one. I was all in on coming out to her. She performed her checkup and I mentioned there’s something I had to tell her. I took a deep breath and out it came. Thankfully, she was so supportive of me that it brought tears to my eyes. After years of hardships, I was finally finding people who understood me.
I was referred to another doctor who was trained in hormone therapy. Being healthy while being on hormones is very important because hormones can increase the risk of stroke. Which is why it is important to continually monitor things like your blood pressure. Unfortunately, my blood pressure was a bit high so my doctor decided to wait until we got it down before beginning. A few months later after working on keeping my blood pressure down, I was finally able to schedule my first shot.
The first shot was a feeling of excitement that I had never felt before. The real me was finally coming out. I would take shots of hormones for two years, and the shots had to be administered by a trained professional. After the two years, I would then switch to an oral hormone.
Three to six months in, I started seeing many positive changes. It was like going through puberty again but finally in the right direction. I first noticed the mood swings, then my breasts really began to develop after 6-9 months. This long journey finally seemed to be coming to an end, yet in reality, my life was really just beginning. However, there was one more thing holding me back that I still had to do.
Jessica Katzenmeyer, 39, West Allis, WI
Currently self employed full time as a Uber/Lyft driver in Milwaukee, Events Coordinator for Erica Flynn for State Assembly, Emerge Wisconsin Alum, interviewed in “Why She Runs” film documentary, former host of “Be Yourself Show” LGBTQ+ podcast talk show for a few seasons, world traveler, has made several guest LGBTQ+ panels and speaking appearances, has musical stage acting experience in the Milwaukee area.
Editor Credits: Jennifer Nicholson and Veronica Spicer